"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." - William Shakespeare
I had been covering Philly Park for a now defunct horse racing handicapping website and had stumbled across a first time starter in November 2003 and thought he had a leg up in his maiden debut which became just another one of my selections on a seemingly normal card. He won by an impressive 7-3/4 lengths and earned a note to follow this one in my marble composition pad of charts and trip notes. A few weeks later, this horse showed up again, fresh off of that MSW win and entered in a minor stakes - this time he destroyed the field by 15 lengths! I knew this horse was something special and as he continued on, winning for fun at Aqueduct in the Count Fleet Stakes and later a pair of wins at Oaklawn, the Rebel and Arkansas Derby - I knew I had my Derby selection locked up early that year, before even seeing the entire field and post draw - Smarty Jones.
Smarty Jones was the last horse I honestly felt had a real shot at the Triple Crown. Maybe I was bias since I had watched his development and was so deeply entrenched with the connections on the Philly, Delaware, and NJ circuits, that I felt this horse was special. Fast forward 9 years - spending less time watching replays, making trip notes, and tracking circuits as I once did - I had analyzed the Derby and felt there would be a big late rush - but to figure out which horse had the leg up? I had figured Revolutionary had an edge (picking Orb as my third choice), but watched that stretch run (almost how I had figured it) and watching that w-i-d-e move felt we had a real exceptional specimen moving forward. He is the horse to beat on Saturday, and may be the closest thing to a Triple Crown threat since my heart (and handicapping) was behind Smarty Jones.
I think the Preakness sets up this way - 3 Titletown Five, 6 Oxbow, and 8 Governor Charlie all vie early - taking the pace through the half mile plus, 2 Goldencents will keep himself forwardly placed but finds himself a bit flat in the stretch. Of the late runner - I see 7 Will Take Charge and 9 Itsmyluckyday being a bit short, with 1 Orb making a huge run again, 4 Departing coming of a doubly wide effort in the Illinois Derby rallying, and 5 Mylute running big off a wide and troubled trip. Ultimately, I think Orb gets the best trip of the solid closers and will find himself 2/3rds of the way to the history books. Underneath, I would include Mylute and Departing with the big late moves and figure that Will Take Charge or Governor Charlie could round out the superfecta.
In a way, I almost need to pass this race - while my analysis points to Orb, my heart wants to see a horse that has shown this kind of heart and ability find his place in the record books - it couldn't happen to nicer connections. In the age of lightly race horses who seem to be protected for future breeding interests or injured more than the Yankees starting lineup - it seems that with each passing year the chances of a prospect being able to complete the prep season and be around to gut out three hard fought victories gets less and less. Is this Orb's destiny? Does Shug have this one conditioned to stay in form this weekend and again in the Belmont? Will he get a clean trip? Only time will tell, but here is for hoping that we again get to witness history, at least before Derek Jeter is back in the starting lineup.
Here's to hoping for 2013! Good luck all!